Stages of a Thriving Journey

Paying close attention to our Thrive series will pay huge dividends in your faith journey as well as help CCC to grow into a new season of effective community, ministry and outreach.  As has been mentioned, we probably all know people who are in positions of leadership (in a church or other organization) who seem to know the Bible “backwards and forwards,” yet act out in inappropriate and confusing ways — maybe it’s a harsh attitude toward their spouse or kids, or regular outbursts of anger, constant negativity, gossipy, controlling, defensive, or generally angry (to name a few).  One important reason to examine what the Bible has to say about emotionally healthy spirituality is that we will be able to better integrate emotional health into our discipleship pathway.

What is Emotional Health?

Emotional health is what occurs when my feelings are put under the power of the cross so that they are acknowledged as present (as opposed to denying them), listened to for what they communicate about me, expressed adequately and appropriately to others, and acted upon in ways that are appropriate. They exist, but they don’t dominate my behavior. They are recognized and given their rightful place in the course of godly conduct.

As you consider the chart below, I would say that most Christ-followers — and most churches do not move beyond Stage 3.  They tend to bounce around in the first three stages.  Sometimes God certainly calls people/families to new churches and ministry opportunities yet that old adage, “wherever you go, there you are,” is often true.  Much of the time our primary cause of frustration is us!  To set our hearts to move through “The Wall” is a courageous act that will cost us.

Isaiah 40:31 says it well:

“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

A literal translation for the phrase “renew their strength” means to exchange strength — God’s for ours.  It can be difficult to wait for the Lord at the wall.  To exchange our strength for God’s, we must begin to own-up to our own issues and expose ourselves to the love and honest input of God through those who know us well (and they’re usually not too surprised about our issues when when we start getting more honest and real :).

Take a look at the chart below and see what it stirs in you.  If you decide to become really courageous, sit down with a friend of family member (who loves you but is not intimidated by you) and ask them how they experience you…

STAGES OF FAITH CHARACTERISTICS HOW WE GET STUCK HOW WE MOVE TO THE NEXT STAGE
STAGE ONE:

Recognition of God — “we believe”

A sense of awe and need for a Savior and greater meaning in life.  An initial repentance (turning away from sin), godly sorrow and humility. A continued sense of worthlessness or ignorance, not seeing or believing we are really beloved by God.
  • Become part of a Growth Group or Support Group
  • Risk transparency and self-disclosure (in appropriate settings)
  • Learning to listen for God thru worship, reading Scripture, prayer, and being still (Ps 46:10)
STAGE TWO:

Life of discipleship — learning about God”

Meaning begins to come from belonging. Answers found in Scripture in the context of regular and authentic worship and community. Becoming rigid in righteousness and following the rules, develop an “us against them” attitude, and/or keep switching churches
  • Acknowledge we never outgrow our need for the gospel – it continues to unfold
  • Recognize our uniqueness and begin to identify our calling and giftedness
  • Recognize what we can contribute to our group and church
STAGE THREE:

The productive life — “we are about doing things FOR God”

A developing sense of belonging to a church and being part of the Body, greater responsibility in some areas of our lives (work, home, church) Becoming overly zealous in “our way,” our preferences, or become weary in well doing. If we are self‐focused or view our lives as performance.
  • Experience significant grief and loss
  • Experience faith or personal crisis
  • Feel abandoned by God and/or others
  • Looking for direction, seeking help, and guidance

THE WALL

“Things just aren’t working anymore…there’s got to be more”

RESISTANCE AT THE WALL:

Egocentric, unrelenting guilt/shame, fear of losing control, head knowledge only (we know about God but don’t know God), performance orientation, people‐pleasing, inability to manage emotions, addiction (substance &/or process), peacekeeper not peacemaker, passive-aggressive, continued family of origin issues, patterns of sin, patterns of gossip and triangulation, etc.

GOING THROUGH THE WALL INVOLVES:

Discomfort, waiting, surrender, trust, total honesty, awareness, forgiveness, risk, love, discernment, solitude with honest reflection, accountability, community

STAGE FOUR:

The journey inward — “learning new ways to engage in a relationship with God and others”

Life or faith crisis, loss of certainties. The things that worked aren’t working anymore. Search for direction, not answers. Pursuit of personal integrity in relationship to God. Moving from “doing” to “being.” God is released from the “box,” which sometimes looks and feels like we are losing faith If we always question everything and are consumed by self‐assessment (“paralysis of analysis”), become immobilized, don’t keep moving forward…
  • Letting go of self‐centeredness
  • Accepting God’s call and purpose for our lives (living with our limits)
  • Seeking wholeness through authentic relationships, personal healing, and ongoing discipleship
  • Being willing to commit to whatever it takes (Jesus is not only Savior but Lord)
  • Two (good) books: “Ruthless Trust” and “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction”
STAGE FIVE:

The journey outward — “learning to live out of a totally different place”

Surrendered to God, a renewed sense of God’s acceptance, deepening relationships. Strong sense of calling, vocation and ministry. Concern and focus on others’ best interests. A deep calm or stillness (SHALOM) Not seriously stuck at this point but others can view you as:  Seemingly out of touch with practical needs and concerns, careless about “important” things, and not striving for success
  • Less striving, more trusting (1 Cor 13 calls us to a “holy naiveté” – until we experience otherwise)
  • Growing deeper
  • Seeing God in all of life
  • Becoming God’s person
  • Letting go – continued trust
  • Authentic joy (vs. mere happiness)
STAGE SIX:

The life of love  “it’s all about God”

Living in responsive and grateful obedience to God, wisdom gained from life’s struggles (asking What? instead of Why?), compassion and empathy for others, speaking the truth with authentic love, loss of stress and anxiety (Col 3:15) Not seriously stuck at this point but others can view you as: “Different from the rest of us,” and that you neglect fighting for your “rights.”  

*The chart is adapted from The Critical Journey by Janet Hagberg & Robert Guelich

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